Okay, so maybe your favorite celebrity really has passed away – we lost a lot of great people in the past year – but this article is about the scammers and hackers who post fake news stories about the deaths of our favorite celebrities that are near and dear to our hearts.
We’ve all been tempted to click on that link on Facebook for a “news article” that tells us that our favorite celebrity actor or actress has passed away. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan…and now, Michael Douglas. “He will be missed!” the link says, underneath a photo of the celebrity, and we feel a sudden pang of sadness as we glide the mouse pointer over the photo, wondering, “How did he die? How long was he sick? Why didn’t I hear about this on the television or radio news?”
Well, the answer to that last question is pretty obvious: Because they aren’t dead. Almost all of those stories are hoaxes, designed to either trick you into clicking on a bogus link to some kind of advertisement site (if you’re lucky), or an infected website that will immediately probe your computer for weakness and hack into your computer to steal banking information, credit card numbers or other online credentials that will give them access to your financial data. So, how do these “fakers” get to post their links on social media websites like Facebook? It’s easy – they PAY for a posted advertisement, which is why you see the word “sponsored” at the top of almost every single one of those postings – and that is the giveaway that tells you that it is not a real news story.
Here are a few examples of celebrity death hoaxes that have been used in the past:
- Hulk Hogan: http://wrestlingnewsplus.com/wwe-news-wwe-legend-hulk-hogan-dead-see-true-details-hulk-hogans-death/#
- Michael Douglas: http://en.mediamass.net/people/michael-douglas/deathhoax.html
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/arnold-schwarzenegger-death-hoax-terminator-actor-died-after-heart-attack-story-false-1517613
- Sylvester Stallone: http://www.snopes.com/sylvester-stallone-death-hoax-2/
That last link to the Snopes website also goes on to tell you how these scams typically operate:
“This web site spreads misinformation (almost always a death hoax) in an attempt to bait people into giving away their information. Here’s how the scam works: A salacious title (Sylvester Stallone found dead!) is posted to Facebook. Those interested in reading the article click the provided link, but before being redirected to the story they are greeted with a pop-up requesting permission to view their personal information”
So, please, everyone, DO NOT give in to the temptation to ever click on any of the news article links that you see in Facebook or other popular social networking websites. If you do accidentally click one of them, then DO NOT click on anything asking you for permission to access anything on your computer or sign you up for any other services. Just click all of your browser windows closed, and to be extra safe, turn off your computer. If you went so far as to click on the “Okay” button when you got to the fake news site, then you should definitely run a full virus scan on your computer and keep a very close eye on your banking and credit card accounts for a few days, and change your passwords to be extra safe.
If you want to find out whether or not the news is true, just go to Google (or your favorite legitimate web search engine) and type in the celebrity’s name and the word “death”. So, if you wanted to know if Michael Douglas has died, you would search for “Michael Douglas death”. If the news is true, then you will see all kinds of real news articles and posting from legitimate news organizations like CNN, NBC, CBS and FOX. But, be careful, because you may also see one or two links to bogus articles that were posted by the original scammers. A great place to find out if something that you found online is true is to look it up on Snopes, a website dedicated to debunking false news stories and dispelling urban myths: http://www.snopes.com/
And that is PJ Networks’ Internet Safety Tip of the Week! Now, let’s be careful out there.
-The PJ Networks Team